This (blossoming) life

On Australia’s island state, winter feels much longer than a season. It arrives before we’re ready, lingers long after we tire of its exhausting company. In the dark middle weeks, the daylight hours shrink, the nights are long; wind and shadows have the touch of ice. Our neighbour, named Antarctica, feels closer than she is.

Even in the thick of it I know that spring and summer still exist – will come again – but believingthis takes faith. The memory of that other time begins to fade, to feel like fantasy.

This year, before I dared to hope for it, I tasted spring. The winter sun – a fluorescent white – was suddenly affectionate and warm. The whipping wind became a kindly breeze that meant no harm. Buds blossomed, blossoms bloomed, as buried seeds began to wake and stir. Delight so filled my body that without the help of gravity, it might have floated up and then away.

Winter has since returned, but it has lost its sting, its strength, its spite. Now, the physical reality of spring is breaking through. My faith is growing stronger by the day.

There have been whole mornings, afternoons as well, where light and warmth have triumphed over dark. I’ve lain on luscious grass – front buried in an earthy hug, back soaking in the long-awaited sun – and felt my body smile. I’ve sung an ode to joy, and one to green; picked flowers, filled up vases, drawn in lungfuls of intoxicating scent.

I’ve marvelled at the skin of the young branches on our spritely apple tree (so straight! so smooth!), and paid homage to the old greengage, each joint encased in gentle rolls of flesh. One has the kind of beauty that is destined to be taken by the years; another has the kind that the years bring.

Our poor magnolia, destined to die young – or so it seemed – has just begun to thrive. Resigned to its demise I’d put an apricot close by; now it can’t contain its joy. Petals are exploding from a song of happy buds, at last it has a friend.

And oh, the birds! Their chatter and their song, so energetic, so excited, so intense. I watch them swoop and dart and glide; I see them draw together, wheel apart. Such fantastic creatures, some capable of crossing continents, of flying ceaselessly for months. And I’ve read that they know just where to migrate, and how to find their way back home instinctively. That they use stars and sun and magnetism too. And that, almost always, they fly back to the place where they were born. How sweet it is to soar away but also, to come home.

I know, in times of darkness and of doubt, that spring comes after winter, just as life comes after death; I know it deep within my very bones. But what a thrill to feel it: lifting me and spinning me; warming me and cheering me, laughingly reminding me that it was there, just waiting, all along.

THIS (BLOSSOMING) LIFE – Australian, The/Weekend Australian, The/Australian Magazine, The (Australia) – August 12, 2023 – page 23

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